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Grades 6-8

Middle School English Language Arts Overview

The English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum is a standards-based curriculum for all students. The curriculum is designed to increase the amount of reading and writing done in the ELA classroom while meeting the Common Core State Standards. The curriculum consists of the teaching of core texts using strategies that engage students in reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, and communicating. Motivation to extend student reading is provided through Middle School Literacy Book Clubs. The Book Club model offers a choice of interesting texts at various levels of challenge while still extending students’ literacy skills and providing rigor. The writing in the ELA classroom includes both formal writing such as informative/explanatory, narrative and argument, and informal writing such as personal responses. The formal writing takes place during Writer’s Workshop whereas the informal writing occurs daily inside the classroom during Reader’s Workshop and as homework. The purpose of the informal writing is to deepen students’ understanding of the text and genre.

Philosophy of Teaching and Instruction

The goal of the English Language Arts (ELA) program of the Stamford Public Schools is to produce a diverse community of critical and creative thinkers and to promote intellectual autonomy and scholarship for all students. As members of learning communities, students become strong, deep independent thinkers and learners through the language experiences of reading, writing, and collaborating. By engaging in collaborative classroom experiences, students transform information into knowledge and experience into understanding. Active engagement in ELA classes develops students as thoughtful readers of literature and nonfiction texts who gain insights about the human condition, appreciate the power of language, and gain a broad range of interpretive strategies as they read and analyze texts. Students exchange ideas about their reading and thinking in a variety of forms, fostering interpretation that reflects multiple perspectives. Students develop as strong, proficient writers who use writing to discover what they think, to develop and extend their thinking, and to communicate ideas to varied and specific audiences.

Reader's Workshop

Reading is taught through the Reader's Workshop model. The primary goal of Reader’s Workshop is to provide students support in reading literature and nonfiction texts by creating an environment that stimulates students to read widely, to engage in discussion with other readers and to write responses to their reading. Students are given the opportunity to read texts of their choice through the Middle School Literacy Book Club model and Independent Reading model as well as opportunities to read Core Texts and explore the meanings of those books with others. Simultaneously, they develop skills and strategies that improve their comprehension, analytic and evaluative skills that are important to all of their reading but particularly to the text they are studying.

In Reader’s Workshop, the teacher provides direct instruction through mini-lessons that demonstrate skills and strategies important to the act of reading and reaching a deeper understanding of complex texts in order to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards. During the Work Period, teachers observe, confer and monitor student mastery of the skills/standards and strategies that have been taught during the Opening. Teachers then regroup students who need more sustained mini-lessons and differentiate accordingly during the Work Period. Lastly, the teacher confirms and connects the learning in the Closing. The Closing is an opportunity for the teacher to determine student needs and adjust the next day’s lesson accordingly. 

Writer's Workshop

Students in middle school will produce written, oral, and visual texts to express, develop, and substantiate ideas and experiences. Students will apply the conventions of standard English in their oral, written, and visual communications.

In order to meet the Common Core State Standards,  students will write in various genres for a variety of audiences and tasks. Students will write in class everyday; they will not only learn to write, but write to learn, in a workshop setting.

The primary goal of Writer’s Workshop is to teach writing through a process by creating an environment that stimulates students to think and to engage in the stages of the writing process to produce a piece of writing. Students need the opportunity to write about what they know and what they care about most. Simultaneously, they need to develop analytic thinking as important to all of their writing. Students write in various modes: informative/explanatory, narrative and argument. 

How Parents Can Support their Child

Encouraging your child to provide evidence of his/her opinion and conclusion in everyday discussions is helping your child meet one of the key standards of the Common Core State Standards.  

Some resources that your child can read at home are as follows:

  • Scholarly magazines
    • The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, etc.
  • Newspapers
    • The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.
  • Literary Nonfiction
    • memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, etc.
  • Primary Source Documents
    • historical literature, Presidential speeches, etc.

Encourage your child to have a pencil, post-its, notebook, or any other method of recording thoughts and observations while reading. Some ideas as to what your child can record are as follows:

  • Questions
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary
  • Striking images and/or details
  • “Loaded” phrases
  • The “Ah ha!” moments
  • Opinions (for, against or qualifying)

Click here for more information on how to support your child.